More than half of American adults want to transition to a single-payer healthcare system, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted earlier this year. Most of these people have no idea how challenging such a switch would be — or the trade-offs it would entail.
Even the pied piper of single-payer, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., recently admitted “there will be pain” in the process of implementing his proposed “Medicare for all” plan.
Just consider the economic devastation single-payer would sow. In 2016, the health insurance industry employed more than 460,000 folks. A government-run insurer might hire some of these workers, but tens, if not hundreds of thousands of them would surely lose their jobs.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Single-payer would require trillions in new, economically devastating taxes. The left-leaning Urban Institute estimated the single-payer plan that Sanders touted on the 2016 presidential campaign trail would cost the federal government $32 trillion over a 10-year period.
The taxes required to fund that plan would leave individuals and businesses with less money to spend and invest. Manhattan Institute economist Yevgeniy Feyman estimated in 2016 that “Medicare for all” would wipe out the equivalent of 11.6 million full-time jobs.
Patients would also suffer immensely. In Canada’s single-payer system, which served as the inspiration for Sanders’ plan, patients are waiting longer than ever for treatment. In 2017, the median wait time between referrals from general practitioners and treatment from specialists was more than 21 weeks.
In the United Kingdom’s government-run healthcare system, more than half a million peopleare waiting longer than 18 weeks to receive planned hospital treatment. This winter, up to 120 patients per day were shoved into hospital corridors because there weren’t enough rooms available. Some of these patients died prematurely as a result.
Many Democrats are “feeling the Bern”— they have convinced themselves, and a sizable share of the American public, that single-payer is a worthy idea. Most of them don’t yet understand how painful such a transition would be.